FORT SMITH -- There will be no 0-4 start in conference play for Bentonville's girls this year as there was a year ago.
The Lady Tigers made sure of that Friday night as they ended the third quarter with a 16-point lead, then held off Fort Smith Southside over the last eight minutes to secure a 58-49 road victory to start 7A-West play.
How They Scored
Bentonville 58, FS Southside 49
Bentonville (10-4, 1-0): Martin 22, Taylor 17, Johnston 13, Hargus 4, Brittain 2.
FS Southside (6-8, 0-1): Mears 16, Stone 14, O’Dell 9, Hamilton 4, Hittner 4, Bishop 2.
Bentonville 63, Fort Smith Southside 47
Bentonville (6-3, 1-0): Monk 37, Smith 8, Hemphill 7, Robinson 6, Estrada 3, Head 2, Carter 1.
FS Southside (6-8, 0-1): Hawley 23, Foree 10, Mays 4, McKethan 3, West 3, Ollison 2, Hillian 1, McLellan 1.
"I'll take this one a lot better than last year with that start," Bentonville coach Tom Halbmaier said. "To go to Southside and get a win is huge because it's tough to play here.
"I think those close losses that we endured in nonconference play prepared us for the conference race."
Bentonville (10-4, 1-0) never trailed, but played its best basketball during the third quarter. Jordan Martin scored eight of her game-high 22 points during that 8-minute stretch, including a 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 seconds left to give the Lady Tigers a 42-26 cushion.
Southside (6-8, 1-0), however, kept things interesting throughout the fourth quarter with defensive pressure. The Lady Rebels slowly whittled at the lead, but never got closer than 54-47 on four straight points by Lani Mears with 57 seconds remaining.
"They started putting pressure on us, and we have to start making better decisions with the basketball," Halbmaier said. "We're relatively young in that area, so we just need to grow from this and get better in those situations.
"The good thing is the girls handled that adversity, whether we created it ourselves or Southside created it. I couldn't be more pleased with that."
Martin led three Lady Tigers in double figures, while Peyton Taylor added 17 and Maren Johnston 13. Mears led Southside with 16, while Lindsay Stone chipped in 14.
"We are playing six or seven girls, and we don't have our legs under us yet," Southside coach Sherry White said. "We have to get in better shape if we're only going to play seven girls, and hopefully we can get to where we are playing eight or nine."
Bentonville 68, Fort Smith Southside 49
Malik Monk scored 21 of his game-high 37 points in the second half, and Bentonville outscored Southside 40-21 during that 16-minute span to knock off the Rebels.
Bentonville (6-3, 1-0) opened the second half with a 12-0 run and went ahead to stay, with Ben Smith's bucket putting the Tigers ahead 35-26 with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter. Bentonville took a 39-33 lead at the end of the third quarter, then pulled away with a 17-2 run to start the fourth.
"It wasn't adjustments; it was execution level," Tigers coach Jason McMahan said. "The second half, we did what we wanted to do originally.
"The first half, we didn't. We played like chickens with our heads cut off. The tale of this game was first half, no execution and second half, execution."
Monk was the only Bentonville player in double figures. Seth Hawley had 23 and Alex Foree 10 for Southside (6-8, 0-1).
Sports on 01/10/2015